a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

6. Jerusalem Under Siege

O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Beth-haccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction. 2I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman. 3The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place. 4Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out. 5Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces.

6For thus hath the Lord of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited; she is wholly oppression in the midst of her. 7As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness: violence and spoil is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds. 8Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.

9Thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets. 10To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it. 11Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days. 12And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord. 13For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. 14They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. 15Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. 16Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. 17Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.

18Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. 19Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. 20To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me. 21Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish. 22Thus saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth. 23They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion. 24We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail. 25Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.

26O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us. 27I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way. 28They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters. 29The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away. 30Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.

The Prophet leaves here the similitude he had adopted; for he does not now speak of shepherds, but expressly describes the enemies, as coming with great force, and furiously attacking and laying waste both the city and the whole of Judea. He was before like God’s herald, proclaiming war; but he now, by a sort of personification, introduces the Chaldeans encouraging one another to fight. Sanctify, he says, war against her. So the Hebrews speak; for in all ages wars, we know, were proclaimed by a solemn rite. God, no doubt, has implanted this feeling in all nations, that no wars should be suddenly undertaken, and that no arms should be taken up except for a lawful reason: for the proclamation of war was a testimony, that they did not contend with one another but for causes just and necessary. It is indeed true, that wars have been often undertaken rashly, and for no just causes; but yet it was God’s will that this custom should remain and continue in use, in order to take away excuse from men given to cruelty, or led by ambition to disturb the world and harass others. This then is the reason for this manner of speaking, Sanctify war; it is the same as though they declared and proclaimed a just war by a solemn ceremony. It was according to the common practice that the Prophet spoke when he said, Sanctify war against her, as we say in our language, Sommez la

Then follows the readiness of the enemies, yea, their incredible quickness, for he shews that they were extremely swift, Arise ye, and let us ascend at mid-day. But they who come to assail a city do so usually in the morning. When the heat prevails, it is not a suitable time, for the heat of the sun debilitates the body. Then enemies rest when night comes, except an unexpected advantage should offer itself: but having been refreshed, they rise early with recruited strength for fighting; they scale the walls or assail the city by other means, or beat down the walls by warlike instruments: but to begin the work at mid-day, when a city is to be attacked, is by no means usual. Hence the Prophet intimates, that so ripened was God’s judgment, that the Chaldeans, after having come to the walls of the city, would not wait, no, not even a few hours. Arise ye, and let us ascend at mid-day

He then subjoins, Alas for us, for declined has the day, and the evening shadows are extended. He employs a military language; for soldiers, we know, are for the most part fierce and barbarous, and never speak in moderate terms. They have ever in their mouths, “Alas for us!” or they use some other words, reproachful either to God or to men. The Prophet then expresses the words of the soldiers; for he describes the Chaldeans, and represents, as I have said, to the Jews the scene as present, that he might dissipate their delusions, in which they were wholly asleep. Alas, then, for us! for declined has already the day, already have the evening shadows extended: they who have added, “Too far,” because they had declined more than usual, have mistaken the meaning of the Prophet. It is the same as though he had said, “Already the night is nigh, and why should we give over? and why do we not make such an impetuous assault as to take the city in a moment?” This is the real meaning of the words.

VIEWNAME is study